Best Online Master’s in Social Work Programs 2022

by TBS Staff Writers, Sherry Christiansen
• 0 min read
reviewed by TBS Rankings Team
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Online Social Work Masters Programs

Earning a master's in social work online can lead to a meaningful career working directly with individuals, children, and families. During an online social work degree, students learn to diagnose behavioral issues, advocate for at-risk communities, and help individuals and groups manage challenges in their daily lives. With a growing number of families falling into poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the social work field will need more experienced professionals to support struggling communities. 

Online MSW programs are a flexible route to meaningful work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average job growth for social workers from 2020-2030. The median annual salary in 2020 was $51,760.

Our list ranks the best online MSW programs. Future online MSW students can use this ranking to find the right program for them. This article also introduces social work concentrations, licensure requirements for sreocial workers, and common social work careers.

Featured MSW Programs

What Is an Online Master's in Social Work?

An online MSW program trains students in areas like social welfare policy, social work research, and clinical social work. Many online MSW programs offer concentrations in children and families, school social work, or social work administration. The degree builds strong interpersonal, research, and analytical skills.

Pursuing a master's in social work online allows enrollees to complete practicum requirements in their local areas. Completing an MSW degree online generally takes two years for full-time students, though some programs offer an accelerated option. After earning an online MSW, graduates can apply for social work licensure and pursue employment in the field.

The Best Online Master's in Social Work (MSW) Degree Programs

#1 Online College in California

University of Southern California

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 92%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Adult mental health and wellness, children, youth and families, social change and innovation 

Accredited By: Western Association of Schools and Colleges; Council on Social Work Education

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

USC is a private research institution that opened its doors in 1880 with just 10 instructors and 53 students. Today, USC has a full-time teaching faculty of 4,700 and 49,500 students. The university offers a wide range of interdisciplinary studies, including its online master of social work (MSW) program. 

The MSW program at USC is a 16-month program that requires 60 units of study. Students may qualify for the 32-unit program with a bachelor's in social work degree from a regionally accredited college.

Prerequisites for the MSW program include a minimum GPA of 3.0, official school transcripts, a bachelor's degree from a college or university that is regionally accredited, a resume, statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation. Online courses include virtual field practicums which are clinical simulation courses with actors who portray real-life client scenarios.

A face-to-face, community-based, in-person training with actual clients is also required.

Available Scholarships: Fellowships, Scholarships, and Grants for Entering Students

#2 Online College in Ohio

Ohio State University-Main Campus

School Information
Location Columbus, Ohio
Admission Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 86%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: Aging and health, mental health and substance misuse, child and youth service

Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission; Council on Social Work Education

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

The OSU main campus, located in Columbus, Ohio, is a public research institution founded in 1870. Today, OSU offers over 12,000 courses at 18 universities and colleges. OSU is well known for training Peace Corp volunteers.

The online master of social work (MSW) course is asynchronous, meaning students can take classes at any time. But there are many courses that offer live sessions to allow distance learners to participate in real-time learning with other students and faculty. The MSW program at OSU is designed to prepare distance learners for licensure or certification. Students who live in states other than Ohio should check with their state licensing board to ensure the program at OSU provides the mandated requirements of their state of residency.

The MSW program includes an extensive in-person field practicum requirement. Graduates of the bachelor of social work program within the last five years, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher in all mandatory social work courses, are eligible for OSU's accelerated MSW program.

Available Scholarships: Morrill Scholarship Program

#3 Online College in Florida

University of Central Florida

School Information
Location Orlando, Florida
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 72%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: Military social work

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Council on Social Work Education

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

UCF in Orlando, Florida, was founded in 1963 to further the U.S. space program in Central Florida. The university currently offers 230 degree programs at 13 college locations. 

USF offers several tracks for students enrolling in the online master's in social work degree program, including the traditional track, an advanced standing track, and an online track. An online part-time program is available for those who do not have a bachelor of social work (BSW) or have finished their BSW over six years ago.

The 100% online track requires 62 credit hours that can be completed in three years. For students who have earned their BSW degree within the last six years and can show evidence of a 3.3 GPA with official school transcripts, the online advanced standing track is an option. This track is 100% online and requires 32 credit hours over four semesters to complete. 

Available Scholarships: UCF Annual Scholarships

#4 Online College in New York

Yeshiva University

School Information
Location New York, New York
Admission Rate 55%
Graduation Rate 82%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Gerontology and palliative care, embedded certification, joint MSW and credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor program

Accredited By: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Counsel on Social Work Education (CSWE)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Yeshiva University in New York City, New York, is a private Jewish institution that includes four campuses throughout Manhattan and the Bronx. The Wurzweiler School of Social Work is CSWE accredited; it is located at the Wilf Campus in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood.

There are no GRE test score requirements. Online students can enroll in full-time or part-time courses and complete coursework anytime. Students can transfer up to 30 credits from a previous college or university provided they can submit official transcripts showing a 3.0 or higher GPA. 

Available Scholarships: First Generation Scholarship

#5 Online College in Louisiana

Tulane University of Louisiana

School Information
Location New Orleans, Louisiana
Admission Rate 13%
Graduation Rate 86%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Human behavior, diversity and social justice, disaster and collective trauma, mental health, addictions, and the family 

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, was incorporated as a private institution in 1884, when the University of Louisiana made its transition to a private organization. 

The master of social work (MSW) program at Tulane offers a full-time traditional MSW track and an advanced standing track. Students with a bachelor of arts or sciences degree qualify for the traditional track when they can show a 3.0 or higher GPA via official transcript/s. A personal essay and two letters of recommendation are required.

Traditional MSW full-time students can complete the course in four semesters over 16 months. There is also a part-time traditional MSW option that can be finished over a 32-month time span. 

To qualify for the advanced standing, students must have hold a bachelor of social work degree within the previous five years from an institution accredited by the CSWE. Prerequisites include a 3.0 or higher GPA and a B+ average practicum score. The advanced standing track can be completed on a full-time basis in three semesters.

Available Scholarships: Verlander-Bracht Scholarship

#6 Online College in Florida

University of South Florida-Main Campus

School Information
Location Tampa, Florida
Admission Rate 48%
Graduation Rate 75%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: Public health and social work concurrent program

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Council on Social Work Education

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

USF in Tampa, Florida, was founded in1956. It includes several campuses including the main campus in Tampa. USF has over 50,000 students at 13 campus locations. The university offers 200 majors and minors in a wide range of fields, including liberal arts, health sciences, engineering, and business. 

The master of social work (MSW) degree program includes core social work courses and advanced study in clinical practicums and working with families, individuals, and small groups. Prerequisites include three letters of recommendation, a personal essay, a personal statement, and liberal arts requirements (12 credits, including three credits in biology and behavioral or social sciences).

An undergraduate degree is required of all applicants to USF's MSW program. Students with a bachelor of social work (BSW) degree will be required to take 35 credit hours and those without a BSW will need to take 60 credit hours to complete the program. 

Available Scholarships: Don G. Giunta Endowed Memorial Scholarship; Dr. and Mrs. Jose and Jean Arias Scholarship Fund

#7 Online College in Massachusetts

Boston University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 19%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Behavioral health, youth, families, and children, aging, trauma and violence

Accredited By: New England Commission of Higher Education; Council on Social Work Education

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

BU is a private research institution in Boston, Massachusetts. Although the university is nonreligious in its affiliation today, it was originally affiliated with the United Methodist Church in 1839. Boston University was founded in Vermont before relocating to Massechusettes in 1867. Today, BU has over 33,000 students enrolled in more than 300 study programs at 17 colleges and schools.

BSU's online master of social work program offers three track options, including a part-time track with the choice of two majors. Students can select from the clinical practice major (concentrating on child welfare, substance/addiction treatment, family and geriatric services, criminal justice, and more) or the macro practice major (concentrating on communities and organizations, human services, and program development).

BSU requires that online students attend weekly in-person classroom sessions and complete face-to-face practicum internships in their local geographic areas.

Available Scholarships: Martin Luther King, Jr. Fellowship

#8 Online College in New Jersey

Rutgers University-New Brunswick

School Information
Location New Brunswick, New Jersey
Admission Rate 61%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 24% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: Clinical social work, management and policy

Accredited By: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Council on Social Work Education

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Rutgers University, located in New Brunswick and founded in 1766, is a public research institution. New Brunswick is one of three campus locations in New Jersey. 

Rutgers' online master of social work (MSW) program offers two options, a 100% online program or a hybrid program that consists of in-person classes blended with online courses. MSW students engage in courses that provide assessment, engagement, and intervention skills to work with clients on an individual basis and with families and groups.

The in-person practicum starts in the third semester for full-time students in the generalist level placement track and in the first semester for students who qualify for the advanced standing track. The field faculty works with students in identifying placement in facilities from one of the many agencies across the country that meet the online MSW requirements.

The MSW program requires 60 credit hours to complete for those in the generalist level placement track and 39 credits for students admitted to the advanced standing track.

Available Scholarships: Graduate School of Education Fellowship and Scholarship Awards

#9 Online College in Texas

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

School Information
Location Edinburg, Texas
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 46%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: Administration and community practice, direct practice with the Latino/a community 

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

UTRGV was founded in 2013; the university enrolls nearly 26,000 undergraduates per year and has a 665-acre campus. 

The online master of social work (MSW) advanced standing, accelerated track for students with a bachelor of social work (BSW) can be achieved in 12 months. Courses are offered 100% online with a 500-hour in-person practicum. To qualify for the MSW advanced standing track, students must have completed a BSW course that is accredited by the CSWE.

Prerequisites include a 3.2 or higher GPA in undergraduate courses, three letters of recommendations, and a personal statement. Students must have also completed a basic statistics course. 

Available Scholarships: UTRGV Graduate Scholarships 

#10 Online College in California

California State University-Northridge

School Information
Location Northridge, California
Admission Rate 59%
Graduation Rate 55%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: None

Accredited By: Western Association of Schools and Colleges; Council on Social Work Education

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

CSUN is home to approximately 38,000 students on its 356-acre campus in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. 

The master of social work (MSW) program focuses on a curriculum aimed at improving social services for the urban community. Its practice model was designed to serve the specific needs of a multicultural community. The online component of the program involves regular online classes. Students must also meet in-person for weekly sessions.

Prerequisites to the MSW program include a status of "good standing" and a GPA of 2.5 or higher from a regionally accredited baccalaureate degree program. 

Available Scholarships: Graduate Student Awards

#11 Online College in Kentucky

University of Louisville

School Information
Location Louisville, Kentucky
Admission Rate 69%
Graduation Rate 59%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Online Master's in Social Work (MSW) Programs Ranking Guidelines

We selected the programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school's reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Featured MSW Programs

Choosing a Master's in Social Work Online Program

When researching online colleges, prospective applicants should consider factors like cost, MSW program length, and specialization options. Rather than comparing tuition rates, candidates should research the total cost. This includes fees, the total number of credits required, and textbook prices. Some programs offer accelerated options, which can mean tuition savings.

MSW students should also research the graduate placement record and field experience opportunities. Online programs often connect distance learners with local opportunities. Some programs have larger placement networks than others. By researching these factors, social work students can find the program that best suits their goals.

Accreditation for Online MSW Programs

Prospective students should always choose accredited MSW programs. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits schools of social work, including online programs. Only a CSWE-accredited degree meets the requirements for a social work license. As a result, attending an unaccredited program will limit a social worker's career options.

In addition to checking program accreditation, applicants should see if the school has regional accreditation. Some institutions have national accreditation, which doesn't meet the same standards as regional accreditation when it comes to social work degrees.

What Can I Expect When Pursuing a Master's in Social Work Online?

Degree-seekers enrolled in a master's in social work online can expect to take classes in social justice, social work practice, and social welfare policy. Additionally, social work students often choose concentrations to prepare for specialized career paths after graduation. Online learners must often complete in-person requirements for practical experience.

Social Work Curriculum

Social Work Concentrations

Aging

This concentration prepares students for careers working with older adults. Coursework covers services aimed at aging communities, social justice issues for older adults, and program development. Core topics include healthcare, memory care, and elder abuse. Graduates are prepared for clinical roles or policy-making positions in aging services organizations.

Children and Families

A children and families social work concentration examines mental health among children. Students learn to assess children, provide early intervention services, and offer clinical treatment for children and families. The concentration emphasizes mental health support, protective factors, and risk factors.

Clinical Social Work

This concentration trains social workers to help people facing mental and emotional challenges. Learners examine counseling practices, including methods of identifying and evaluating challenges and both individual and group treatment approaches. They also explore behavioral issues, professional challenges, and family conflicts. Graduates can pursue careers in clinical social work.

Community and Social Systems

A community and social systems concentration focuses on macro-level social welfare organizations. Students examine social systems to identify potential improvements or policy needs. They also learn to conduct macro assessments and evaluate social problems. The concentration prepares graduates for roles in social work policy-making and social welfare institutions.

Forensic Social Work

This concentration uses social work tools to address problems in the legal system. Forensic social workers represent clients within the justice system, acting as consultants or advocates in legal settings. A forensic social work concentration includes training in the criminal justice system and social services that connect to the legal system.

School Social Work

A school social work concentration examines the barriers children face in school settings. The concentration trains MSW students in issues like homelessness, violence, truancy, and challenges related to special education programs. Degree-seekers learn to work with different student populations and design student support systems in schools


Advanced Standing MSW Programs

A student with a bachelor's in social work from a CSWE-accredited program may receive advanced standing status in an online MSW program. This allows them to graduate more quickly. Typically, an MSW takes two years of full-time study to complete, but advanced standing programs usually allow students to graduate within one year.

Social Work Licensure and Certification

Social workers pursuing clinical social work, school social work, and similar fields need licenses. Each state issues its own social work licenses and sets specific licensure requirements. Generally, a licensed social worker (LSW) needs an MSW and must meet supervised experience requirements. Some states only require a bachelor's degree. 

Social workers licensed in one state can often apply for a reciprocal license in other states, but it isn't automatic. They may need to meet additional requirements. Learn more about social work licensure from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) licensing guide.

Social Work Jobs and Salaries

true Marriage and Family Therapists
Median Salary 2020: $51,340 Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 15%

Marriage and family therapists help families overcome challenges, including personal relationship problems, life changes, and mental health struggles. They work with individuals, couples, and families to help clients process life changes and make decisions about their futures. Marriage and family therapists also refer clients to relevant community resources and services, such as support groups or inpatient treatment facilities.

Strong interpersonal communication skills help marriage and family therapists support their clients. Marriage and family therapists typically hold master's degrees in social work or psychology. In every state, marriage and family therapists need licenses to practice.

true Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
Median Salary 2020: $55,690 Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 4%

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists help incarcerated individuals access social services and reintegrate into their communities upon release. These professionals work with probationers, parolees, and pretrial defendants. After evaluating clients, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists design a course of rehabilitation. This can include referring clients to services like job training or substance abuse counseling.

Most probation officer and correctional treatment specialist positions require at least a bachelor's degree in social work. A master's degree qualifies candidates for advanced roles.

true Social and Community Service Managers
Median Salary 2020: $69,600 Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 15%

Social and community service managers oversee social service programs. They identify the need for programs and services; plan and implement programs; and analyze program effectiveness.

Most managerial social work jobs require at least a bachelor's degree. Some employers prefer candidates with master's degrees or years of professional experience in social services.

Social Workers
Median Salary 2020: $51,760 Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 12%

Social workers assist clients with mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. They connect clients to community resources, provide counseling services, and treat mental health issues. Social workers can specialize in niche areas, like school social work or healthcare social work.

Many social workers need master's degrees. Clinical social workers must hold MSWs and have two years of supervised experience.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
Median Salary 2020: $47,660 Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 23%

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors help clients manage mental health and behavioral challenges. They evaluate clients' mental and physical health, develop customized treatment plans, and help patients modify behaviors. These counselors may also make referrals to social services and conduct outreach programs to educate the public.

Most substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors hold bachelor's degrees, while mental health counselors typically need master's degrees.

Featured MSW Programs

Ask a Social Worker

TheBestSchools sat down with social worker, Anne Inwood to discuss how she chose to pursue a master's in social work and give advice to prospective students.

Portrait of Anne Inwood

Anne Inwood

Anne Inwood works at Successful Families Together, where she provides parent coaching, parent support and resources, and parent education. She helps families create successful routines and provide therapy and counseling. She has an LCSW and a master of science in child development.

Preferred Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

What was your favorite aspect of earning a master of social work degree?

When I was earning my MSW, I was able to have first-hand experience working with families in various situations while learning and working under regular supervision. I had group supervision in my courses with a professor and other students, which meant we could all learn from each other and our experiences. I learned from my internship experiences as well as the experiences of my peers.

What should students interested in social work be good at?

Students studying social work should be able to have meaningful and critical self-reflection. Social workers need to be able to reflect on who they are and how their values and beliefs impact how they work with their clients. These beliefs and values may be ingrained in who a social worker is even if it's not readily apparent to them.

Social workers interact with a variety of clients who hold beliefs that can range from extreme on either end of the spectrum to more in the middle. This means that a social worker needs to be able to respond to clients with dignity and respect, no matter how similar or different their belief systems are.

This does not mean that social workers need to change their beliefs and values for a client, but they do need to be aware of what these are to make it easier to respond appropriately to clients from a variety of backgrounds.

What makes social work a popular field for online study?

Social work is a field that can be filled with nontraditional work hours, which also include being on call. This can make it more difficult to have courses at the same time each week as they may not be as confident of what their schedule will look like from week to week.

While there may be some specific times for course meetings, online learning can be more flexible in terms of when the student needs to be online, as long as assignments are submitted on time. It can also provide a more varied experience for students as they can learn from the experiences their peers are having in a variety of communities and environments.

Are there any advantages to studying social work online as opposed to in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting?

In an online program, you can interact with students in a variety of states. By contrast, while students from a brick-and-mortar setting may come from various locations, they are not having their internship experiences from a variety of states.

While the Code of Ethics provides social workers with the same ethical code, this does not mean that states have the same resources and laws. I am currently teaching in an online social work program, and students are able to learn about the variety of different social work experiences — such as hospice, child welfare, and inpatient programs — and they are able to see how different laws and regulations also impact social work. It is a valuable learning experience to see the role that advocacy can play in the field.

What makes social work such a versatile and meaningful degree?

Social work provides theories and ideas around clinical skills and providing therapy and counseling, but it also helps people learn who they are and the ideas around interacting with others. These attributes are important for everyone.

Specifically, how does a therapist help clients to know and understand themselves and their passions if the therapist is not clear on who they themselves are? If someone does not know who they are and what values and beliefs they have, how can they work effectively with others when their beliefs differ?

All of these skills can transfer to other fields and professions and are especially valuable when interacting with a client who may or may not share the same beliefs or life experiences.

Common Questions About Social Work Degrees

Which State Has the Highest-Paid Social Workers?

Hawaii, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Georgia report the highest annual mean wages for social workers.

How Hard Is A Master's in Social Work?

MSW programs can be very challenging, mentally and emotionally. MSW programs train social workers in social welfare policy-making, social work research, and clinical social work, which can all be technical. Students must also complete an internship or practicum, which can be emotionally challenging. Driven, compassionate students will thrive in an MSW program.

Can You Get Your Master's in Social Work Online?

Yes. Many top-ranked social work programs offer online MSW programs. In an online setting, learners complete coursework in a distance learning format while meeting in-person clinical requirements through local mental health organizations.

Should I Get a Master's in Social Work or Counseling?

An MSW and a master's in counseling prepare graduates for different careers. A counseling degree emphasizes counseling techniques and theories, while a social work degree takes a big-picture approach. Social workers provide a range of services within the social work system, while counselors typically work directly with clients.

How Long Does an MSW Take to Complete?

Two years for full-time students, including internship requirements. Some programs offer accelerated options, which enable students to complete their degrees in less time. Applicants must already have a bachelor's degree.

Featured MSW Programs

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